James Fallows of The Atlantic, in “Five Reasons Why the Comey Affair Is Worse Than Watergate“, provides a necessary perspective for why today’s Trump crisis is Watergate on steroids. If you lived through Watergate, you remember that, even then, the integrity of our institutions were blatantly challenged by an arrogant and lawless president. For those of us living through it, the resolution remained in doubt until Nixon actually resigned. That resignation only came about because a handful of Republicans put country above party and drew the line on Nixon’s lawlessness.
Today the challenge is greater, both because the underlying criminality is much greater and because today’s Republican leadership, with substantially greater provocation, has chosen to turn a blind eye. Fallows cites five criteria: 1. a greater underlying offense; 2. Trump’s total disregard of rules and his menacing thuggery; 3. the nature of the men – Nixon “was paranoid, resentful, bigoted, and a crook. He was also deeply knowledgeable, strategically prescient, publicly disciplined”; Trump, “is impulsive, and ignorant, and apparently beyond the reach of any control, even his own.” 4. our current institutions show fragility, rather than the resilience of the Watergate era, and 5. the current Republican leadership shows a craven disregard of Trump’s travesties. As Fallows puts it, “On the merits, this era’s Republican president has done far more to justify investigation than Richard Nixon did. Yet this era’s Republican senators and congressmen have, cravenly, done far less.”
Fallows should be read in full. His conclusion: “Because of the current lineup of legislative and executive power, the leaders whose choices matter are all Republicans. I hope some of their choices, soon, allow them to be remembered as positively as are the GOP’s defenders of constitutional process from the Watergate days. But as of this moment, the challenge to the American system seems more extreme than in that era, and the protective resources weaker.”
The warning underlying Fallow’s thesis is on point. We cannot rely on the Republican Congress to carry out the investigations needed to call Trump to account. Congress is effectively complicit in a cover-up of treason by the President. It will not act except in response to outside forces beyond its control. We are in effect subject to a slow motion coup.
Several, not insignificant, forces are nonetheless on our side. As we have learned, James Comey and the FBI had already instituted investigations of Trump’s collusion, leading to the commencement of federal grand jury proceedings. State court investigations of RICO and money laundering violations by Trump and his associates are also in full motion. And finally, because our electoral processes have not been fully compromised, Congress and the President remain, still, subject to accountability at the 2018 elections. In firing Comey, Trump challenged the integrity of an FBI who live and die by their integrity. Prosecutors with grand juries cannot be quietly reined in, even by the President and his complicit Attorney General. And Republican Congressmen getting up in the morning reading record low polling numbers are going to get antsy fast. I don’t believe the American people will tolerate this for long. “Honk for Impeachment”!